From education to employment

Government announce “ambitious” plans to help criminals back into employment

The government has pledged £500,000 to help prevent criminals from re-offending by offering them better skills and job prospects.

Secretary of State for Education, Alan Johnson, yesterday announced two pilot schemes at a conference in London, in the hope of giving offenders “a chance to change their lives through education and employment”.

Employers will be encouraged to offer schemes for reformed criminals who can prove a commitment to turn away from crime.

Launching the “ambitious” proposals, Mr Johnson said: “At the heart of our reform is the need to tackle the obstacles of low skills and lack of employment opportunities that prevent offenders living crime free lives. By joining up training and labour market needs more closely we can create a win-win situation for employers and offenders while also protecting the public by cutting crime”.

The new scheme will build on the praise given to the prison-training sector by the Chief Inspector of Adult Learning, David Sherlock, in his final report published two days ago.

Minister of State for Employment, Jim Murphy, added: “My visit to Wandsworth Prison last week highlighted the importance of improving skills provision for offenders so they can re enter the work force upon release. Work is the best way of reducing re-offending and it is essential that we ensure offenders have the skills employers require”.

“We are looking at how we can improve the provision of skills by Jobcentre Plus to help ex-offenders return to the labour market quickly and turn their back on crime”.

John Foster, who owns and runs a bakery that takes on offenders, exemplified the government’s mission to rehabilitate offenders: “I have no regrets. I had to overcome my natural risk aversive nature but I”m happy to say that the offenders I have taken on have been model employees”.

Minister of State for Criminal Justice and Offender Management, Baroness Scotland QC, spoke on the plans, entitled “Reducing Re-Offending Through Skills and Employment: Next Steps”, saying: “The Next Steps plan includes further development of the Corporate Alliance to enable us to work with employers from all sectors to improve offenders” chances of finding a job on release and thus become law abiding citizens”.

“I want to acknowledge the significant number of businesses, public and third sector organisations who are already doing an excellent job such as delivering vocational training in prisons, taking on offenders and giving them work and we look forward to building on their good practice”.

The programme will include employability contracts; a mentor support system and “engaging more employers through a “Reducing Re-offending Corporate Alliance”, promoting the employment of offenders in areas of recruitment difficulties and skills shortages”.

However, crime reduction charity Nacro has expressed concern over the lack of detail offered in the proposals, citing it as a missed opportunity.

Linda Goult, Acting Director of Operations for Nacro, said: “The aims and sentiments set out by the Government are laudable, but the Next Steps paper has failed to take on board some of the more complex issues surrounding education and employment for many offenders”.

“Many of the people that Nacro works with suffer multiple disadvantage – creating significant barriers to employment – and we are disappointed that there are no detailed plans on how this will be tackled”.

“It is unclear how barriers to employment other than vocational skills deficits will be addressed”, she continued.

She noted the recognition of sentence management and planning as key to ensuring the continuation of training, adding: “We welcome the fact that ministers understand the need to link up to other 14-19 reforms”.

“However, [the] proposals are a missed opportunity to address the wide-ranging and complex needs of offenders and put too much emphasis on employers being able to decide what is offered and who is selected”.

“We remain deeply concerned that the Next Steps proposals will continue to help those for whom prison is a short term disruption to their normal working life, and ignore the needs of the most marginalised and disadvantaged ex-offenders”.

Vijay Pattni.

Related Articles